Helpless polling officers witness ballot box stuffing

Unidentified Youth casting multiple votes together at Siddheswari Girls School

Khadimul Islam and Mohiuddin Alamgir

A number of polling officers, mostly teachers were assaulted while some others were forced to assist in stuffing ballot boxes at gunpoint by the ruling party men at different polling stations during Tuesday’s city elections.
Elections to Dhaka North, Dhaka South and Chittagong city corporations were held on the day with the BNP-backed mayoral candidates announcing boycott of the polls a few hours into the ballot alleging widespread irregularities, including stuffing.

Mazharul Islam, presiding officer for polling station 557 set up at Uttar Kafrul High School under Dhaka North city corporation, was visibly shaky and had difficulty talking when New Age approached him for comments.
Mazharul, a teacher, said that a group of men stormed in and vandalised several booths.  ‘My right eye was hurt as I attempted to resist them.’

Awami League activists vandalized ballot boxes and polling booths when they attacked three polling stations at Uttar Kafrul High School. Witnesses said a numbers of assistant presiding officers also came under attack.

A female colleague of Mazharul was so frightened that she refused to talk about what had happened.

Dhaka City College centre presiding officer AGM Shafiqur Rahman was desperately trying to contact top election officials when a group of unruly voters created trouble inside the polling station at about 1:45pm.

‘We are suffering humiliation. We had no way but to watch stuffing of ballot boxes as they hurled abuses at us brandishing pistols and machetes during the vote rigging,’ said Hasan Arif, assistant presiding officer at booth 2 at South Hali Shahar High School centre 1 in Chittagong.

Kazi Mohiuddin Ahmed, assistant presiding officer at booth 3 of the same centre was found devastated at about 2:00pm after the ruling party men took away about 300 ballot papers. ‘I never saw such kind of elections,’ Mohiuddin said.

‘Pardon me,’ said presiding officer Hasanul Banna of the centre when approached for comments.

‘Please, save our lives,’ Abul Hashem, presiding officer at the women’s polling centre set up at BCSIR Laboratory School in Chittagong wrote in  short message service to an assistant returning office.

Hashem sent the SMS after several hundred activists of the Awami League-backed mayoral candidate AJM Nasir forced their way into the polling station and started stuffing boxes after firing in the air.

Replying to the SMS, assistant returning officer Syed Abu Sayed asked Hashem to do whatever they considered necessary to save their lives.

‘We saved ourselves from physical assault. But what about the trauma we are suffering in performing election duty,’ said Shobha Roy, an assistant presiding office after supporters of AJM Nasir stormed into the polling booth and stuffed ballot boxes.

Fasihul Alam, presiding officer at Muslim Education Society High School centre, said that he called RAB, BGB and Election Commission informing them about the stuffing, but paid no heed.

Presiding officer Mizanur Rahman at the men’s polling station at BCSIR Laboratory School declined comments about the incidents.

A presiding officer who teaches accounting at a government college said that miscreants had stamped Nasir’s symbol ‘elephant’ indiscriminately and forced the polling officers at the centre to drop the ballot papers in the box.

Source: New age